Treating burnout is tricky, which is being shown by the fact that the negative symptoms of stress keep spreading like wildfire.
What are the best tools to battle or mitigate it?
What do you do when the stress gets too overwhelming and bothersome?
I tend mainly to that issue, and my approach works quite well. Though, to solve a problem, we’ll have to know what the problem IS. So, the initial step is always to get a good enough analysis of the situation, which is why there are PLENTY of questions to begin with. Honestly, that’s also used as a part of helping people with acceptance, which is another essential thing for starters. If you keep ignoring the problem, you might as well keep digging your own grave. You’ll need to stop digging to make progress!
Building new habits and tending to what’s important is crucial to getting better. A tired mind needs to rest. Maslow’s first one or two steps are necessary to recover. There’s often low-hanging fruit to tend to – like telling people that EATING is beneficial. Everyone doesn’t do that, but everyone’s got to.
To get a decent view of the kind of mess I tend to, we could start by looking at a client’s writing. I think it catches how wide this goes in a cute way.
“Two years ago I was put on sick leave after collapsing in the office. It was not the first time I collapsed, but so far I had always managed to get back on my feet. I pushed a bit further, refused to give up – only because I did not know how bad it was.
At first I was put on a two week sick leave. That seemed like a long time to me, but now I know that it’s not enough to recover from exhaustion syndrome, or what people generally refer to as burnout. It took me a very long time to even realize that I was ill. In addition, I was diagnosed with severe depression. Unfortunately, no one seemed to be able to treat either of the issues. Pills were tried as an intervention for sleep, anxiety and for the depressive symptoms, but with no success.
I was told to rest as much as possible, which was an impossible task. I was incredibly restless and I rarely slept more than two hours per night. My body was aching, my head felt empty and I was not able to control my emotions.
One day I stumbled across Patric. He was very straight-forward in telling me that my burnout and depression were not entirely work-related. I had some severe issues to deal with in my private life as well. He was quite certain that the body needed to be physically active to be able to relax and rest. Simply being passive and anxious wouldn’t do the trick, he said. “It certainly won’t vanish on its own!” and “Nothing ever solves itself”.This holistic approach seemed appealing to me – a mentor that could give me the tools I had been looking for. That was the best deal I have ever made and today I would like to share some of the tools and methods he used on me or that he helped me apply on my journey forward. From there on – up from the bottom and beyond where I had been before.
- Physical activity instead of rest to make me fall asleep. In the beginning a few burpees was enough.
- Doing small projects like painting a room.
- Getting a social life. To be able to work more I had of course stopped seeing my friends and being social.
- Find something or someone that made me feel safe so I could fall asleep. Sleeping is obviously important and was a huge issue.
- Create a list to find the energy thieves and get rid of them.
- … and a list of what gives energy. It could be watching snails, picking berries, gardening, tending to fire, cooking, looking for four-leaf-clovers, running…
- When I felt worst, all I wanted to do was remain in a fetal position and cry. However… That won’t really solve any problems. So, yet again, it got treated with something pragmatic – it was okay to cry, but it could as well be done while taking a walk or during exercise. Not necessarily in an abusive way… Since the crying didn’t really stop if there was no intervention. Doing something about the stress however, did break the cycle and the crying could stop.
- Sauna is perfect for letting the body and soul relax. Warm baths serve the same purpose and work just as well.
- Spend time in nature. Using senses. Trying to be here and now. (Mindfulness!)
- Run. Every step counts. Start small – and then go longer… longer… and for hours!
- Read. Anything. Even a children’s book if that’s the current level.
- Eat real food. I had stopped doing that ages ago to save time and the health issues kept the appetite low enough for me to live on practically nothing… But it seems we do need that fuel to be useful for… anything, really.
- Splitting up the work day in short sessions. Take breaks.
- Schedule and prioritize positive activities to make sure they get done.
- Keep blank spaces in the calendar.
- Stop worrying!
- Realize that a job is just a job. Not the entire world.
- Walk in the rain and take in the fresh air.
- Don’t care what other people think.
- I had to accept the situation as it was. “It won’t always be this bad.”
- … and that I was not quite the same person as before. I had to stop trying to get back to being that person and go forward.
- Celebrate my birthday! Something that I used to avoid like the plague.”
There are plenty of ways to mitigate stress. The first, foremost, and primary method is to change the situation! It’s reasonable to want to HANDLE the pressure, but unless it’s necessary, that sounds like a stupid solution. Acceptance of misery is applicable when we’ve got no choice. That’s when it’s reasonable to try to handle and mitigate the negative aspects of the stress. To remove, change and alter your environment, however. Delegate, automate – or perhaps try saying no could remove what’s stressful, and there’s no problem left. Another solution could be to stop getting worked up about it. Is whatever-you’re-getting-worked-up-for useful and worth getting worked up for? There are tools, ways, tips, and tricks to avoid getting too stressed; one way of saying it is “handling life”, but that’s almost arrogant. Another way to put things would be to mention pacing and time planning.
“Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that make him sick.“They say Hippocrates said this. (But what do I know?)
Pacing and time planning are fancy words for “handling the aspects of life you’ve chosen in a balanced way where you’re not doing more than you can tolerate”. Make sure you’re not doing/planning/expecting/demanding more than what’s reasonable and possible.
What’s your capacity? Don’t plan more than that. It won’t help. If you expect to do more than you possibly CAN do, there’s no other option than getting stressed. Stressed, but you still didn’t get more done.
Handling life is about making the right choices. Treating burnout is a lot about finding a balance in all of it – finding space to recover and then avoid overextending again.
In the book found at https://mbdolor.com/book/ I’ve done my best to create a cheap piece of content that just might change lives. It covers the fundamentals of what I keep in mind and how I reason when I help people with these things, alongside tools to get going towards a better place. I think I’m covering close to 6 A4 pages about the concept of pacing there and almost as much about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But that’s just a tiny part of it all.
Treating said exhaustion isn’t done in ONE way, so I can’t simply line up the solution for you here, regardless of how much I’d love to. The reason for burnout must be explored. You – or I – must ask why all of this happened.
So, how are you? And why?
THEN we can go on to think about a solution. But that solution is practically always tailored to fit the individual and the situation. To solve problems, we need to know what they are, but with that said, it’s still highly possible to cover some key concepts and reason about troubles, solutions, and tools generally valuable for those who stress more than their physiology can handle over time.
Back to the client who wrote what I quoted earlier. That’s A LOT of things we’ve done since there were a lot of problems. Some are fine as long as they “just” get a divorce because that’s the ONE MAJOR PROBLEM. Some have a horrible work environment, and some can’t stand their own mind, perhaps because of anxiety or depression for some reason. Over time that gnaws and stresses them for so long that they eventually experience the symptoms you get from stressing for far too long.
You’ll have to figure out what’s gnawing on you and do something about it.
Ask yourself why you’re in this situation.
Why are you feeling like this and what can you do about it?
What can you try to change and what’s the worst thing that could happen if you did that and failed?
Is that consequence worse than if you stayed and did nothing? What would your chances look like then?
If you feel as if you need help with these things, send me a mail and we’ll see if I can do anything for you. www.mbdolor.com/contact